February 13, 2008 / 10:06 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks surge on U.S. data, Agrium

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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index surged nearly 200 points on Wednesday, boosted by gains in Agrium Inc and Research In Motion, and unexpectedly positive U.S. retail data.

Agricultural products supplier Agrium ABU.TO rose C$2.87, or 4.6 percent, to C$66.00 after it reported a fourth-quarter profit, helped by increasing demand and prices for fertilizer.

Research In Motion RIM.TO, the maker of the BlackBerry, also helped yank the index higher as it rose C$4.88, or 5.3 percent, to C$96.52, making it the day’s biggest net gainer.

Enthusiasm over a surprise rise of 0.3 percent in U.S. retail sales for January spilled over to the Toronto market as investors hoped the economy south of the border is proving more resilient than expected.

“The retail numbers set the tone early and everybody’s jumped on it,” said John Kinsey, portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities Ltd. “I think the retail numbers were obviously good and better than expected, and people have been hoping for some good news for a change.”

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 194.92 points, or 1.49 percent, at 13,282.30 with its 10 main groups up across the board. The index has advanced in four out of its last five sessions, making for a gain of about 3 percent.

“To a certain extent, while one month of better than expected retail sales doesn’t actually make a trend, I think it’s interesting that the markets are responding so positively, and really looking positively at good news today,” said Kate Warne, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.

“I think we’ve really seen stocks with a lot of fear in them, and this may say people are beginning to say, ‘Well, if it’s not quite as bad, then these are really attractive values’.”

The heavyweight energy sector moved up 2.1 percent as oil prices continued to move higher after Venezuela cut off oil sales to Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) as a dispute over a nationalized oil project intensified.

Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) added C$2.26, or 3.6 percent, to C$65.25, and Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) was up C$1.56, or 3 percent, at C$53.28.

Agrium’s advance helped the materials sector rise 1.5 percent, while its gold producers subindex rose 1.6 percent.

The tech sector gained 5.1 percent, lifted by RIM and Nortel Networks’s NT.TO rise of C$1.28, or 12.4 percent, to C$11.61. Nortel’s chief executive told a German newspaper that the company will look at possible takeover opportunities as they come, but declined comment on this week’s media reports of a unit merger with Motorola MOT.TO.

WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO), Canada’s No. 2 air carrier, gained 69 Canadian cents, or 4 percent, to C$17.99 after its quarterly profit nearly tripled, lifted by strong demand, lower nonfuel costs and a tax gain.

Elsewhere, shareholders of Montreal Exchange Inc MXX.TO approved the C$1.1 billion takeover by TSX Group Inc (X.TO), which runs the Toronto Stock Exchange. Montreal Exchange ended up 3 Canadian cents, or 0.1 percent, at C$36.13, while TSX rose 8 Canadian cents, or 0.2 percent, to C$45.46.

Market volume was 392 million shares worth C$6 billion. Advancers outpaced decliners 1,025 to 544. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 11.31 points, or 1.48 percent, at 777.26.

On Wall Street, stocks climbed for a third day, on optimism that consumer spending was holding up despite other data that has pointed to a recession. The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI jumped 178.83 points, or 1.45 percent, to 12,552.24, and the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was up 53.89 points, or 2.32 percent, at 2,373.93.

$1=$1.00 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway

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